Tag Archives: South Korea

Year in Photos 2020

One of my annual traditions is reflecting on the past year through photos. Here are my past year in photos reflections- 20142015201620172018, and 2019. While I love telling stories through words, pictures are a great way to tell my story, too.

2020 was a year like no other, as we all know. While most of my previous year in photos include pictures from all the places I traveled that year, 2020 was the year of quarantine, therefore I have fewer places than usual represented in this year’s reflection. I started out the year in Texas, flying back to Jakarta via Dubai on January 2nd. I was able to travel to Borobudur and Lembang in Indonesia before we were quarantined on March 2nd. I went back to Texas in May, where I spent the summer, and then moved to Jeju, South Korea in July. After quarantining in Seoul, I spent the rest of 2020 in Jeju, apart from a couple of quick trips to Seoul. Here are the highlights of my 2020, in chronological order. Which ones are your favorite?

The Perfect Ending to a Stressful Week

I’ll be honest, this week has been pretty shitty. I’ve dealt with some rudeness, hardly had any time during the day due to loads of meetings, been stressed out with the amount of work I’ve had to do, and on top of that, I started my period, which has been unpleasant. I was proud of myself for just making it to Friday.

Tonight, a few friends and I went out to dinner at Donato’s, a pizza place near Hyeopjae Beach. It was my first time here, and let me tell you, this place is legit. The pizzas were made with quality ingredients in a wood-fired oven, something that’s rare to find in Jeju. We each ordered a pizza (mine was the Chevre made with goat cheese from France) and all shared a Caesar salad. The pizza was served with a balsamic glaze and local honey on the side. I loved everything and will definitely be going back.

The conversation was easy, sometimes involving all four of us, but other times, we broke off in twos to chat. We told stories from this week and from years in the past, empathized with one another, laughed (maybe a little too loudly), and teased each other. I enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane and sharing bits of my life from the past decade as an international school teacher, and I loved getting to know my new friends even more through their stories. It was the perfect antidote to a crappy week.

Toward the end of dinner, I went over to say hi to a student from my school who was eating with her family. I noticed her when we got there, and I waved, but she didn’t come to say hi, so I thought I would go to her. She’s one of those students who always has a smile on her face and chats with me whenever she sees me. I also talked with her family briefly, as they were getting ready to leave.

On the drive home, I blasted my 90’s playlist on Spotify and we sang (mostly out of tune) loudly along with the Backstreet Boys, Wilson Phillips, Shania Twain, Hanson, and Boyz II Men, laughing all the way home. My mood was lifted, as I shook off the negativity of the past week. Fridays should always end like this!

Korean Grocery Store Finds

One of my favorite things to do whenever I move (and sometimes when I travel) to a new place is to scope out the grocery stores and see what they have on offer. I usually find some unusual things mixed in with the ordinary. Korea is no different, however as far as grocery stores go, I can find most of what I want to buy here (if I’m willing to pay the high price tag, that is), which hasn’t always been the case in my other locations. There are a few things I can’t find, but they are things I can live without.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite Korean grocery store finds.

How’d you like to buy 1 cantaloupe for $30 USD?!? Lucky for me, I hate cantaloupe!

Not sure what these are, but some people were cooking up these Korean snacks in the middle of the store. As far as I can tell, they are sandwiches, with cooked eggs acting at the “bread” part and meat and other fillings inside.

This sign totally made me laugh! I’m not sure if the sign is meant to entice the foreigners to buy the snacks or the locals, since foreigners buying them makes them more attractive.

There are sooooo many unusual Pringles flavors to choose from, but these caught my eye! I’m thinking the butter caramel ones might be good, but I’d definitely have to pass on the Sweet Mayo Flavour Cheese…yuck!

Now I’ve heard that onion tea is great for your skin and makes you look younger, but I don’t think I could stomach the taste!

This one is a peanut butter flavored drink, like a PB version of hot chocolate. I have some, but haven’t tried it yet. My friend says it’s pretty good. This is the Skippy brand.

Need a glass of wine, but don’t have a glass? Just buy the single serve version- glass included! 🙂

This one threw me off for sure. I’ve had peanut butter before, and I’ve had squid (not my favorite, but I’ve had it) too, but never in a million years would I have put these two flavors together! Would you?!?

This one is so weird for many reasons. For one, who buys 9 green beans at a time? Why do we need plastic packaging? And why do these 9 green beans cost nearly $2 USD?!? Needless to say, I didn’t buy them, but I have to say, I do miss eating fresh green beans. They must not grow them here or they must not be “a thing” in Korea.

Anyone fancy some seaweed flavored oatmeal?? I love it that it’s Quaker brand, too! 🙂

Have you ever seen anything at your local grocery store that made you laugh or wonder who in the heck would ever want to eat that?

Friday Night in Jeju

Living in Jeju, an island in South Korea, means that my Friday nights are much different than when I lived in big cities with tons of nightlife. Where I live is a bit (okay…a lot) more low key; add Covid in the mix, and Fridays are a lot quieter now.

After a busy week at work (which ones aren’t these days?), I was ready for some down time. I picked up some fresh tulips at the local supermarket first, and after deciding that cooking wasn’t in the cards tonight, I headed to Gla Gla to pick up a take-away Poke bowl. While I waited on my order, I snapped a few pics of the surrounding area. This street is full of restaurants, cafes, and shops where you can buy fresh fish, since it’s located on a port.

Back at home, I settled in for a night of catching up on my shows. Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 are back…after a very long hiatus…so I watched them both. I won’t reveal any spoilers, but if you are religious viewers like me, you are in for an emotional ride!

A New Adventure!

When I initially made the decision to move abroad and teach internationally, I can remember telling my parents (and everyone else) that it was just going to be for 2 years, and then I’d move back home. At the time, I actually believed that’s how it would play out. Fast forward to now, ten years later, and I’m finishing my contract in my fourth country, with no plans to return home anytime soon.

The life of an expat, while not for everyone, is my preference. It’s afforded me many opportunities I never would have had living in the states. Apart from the obvious travel opportunities, I have been able to meet some truly remarkable people, learn a great deal about myself, become a better educator, teach in the PYP, immerse myself in new cultures, develop some long-lasting friendships, and work through some very challenging times. In the past ten years, I’ve lived in Shanghai, China; Tirana, Albania; Bangkok, Thailand; and Jakarta, Indonesia. While I’m sad that this chapter is coming to an end, I’m so excited about my new adventure!

I’m thrilled to announce that this summer, I’ll be moving to Jeju Island, South Korea! To be honest, Korea was never really on my radar because, despite loving it when I visited Seoul in 2011, it was too dang cold for me! What I’ve learned about Jeju is that while it does get cold (and even snows a few times a year), it’s generally 10-15 degrees Celsius warmer than Seoul. Plus, Jeju is known as “the Hawaii of Korea,” and you can’t go wrong with that!

Firstly, I am really looking forward to joining my new school, Branksome Hall Asia (BHA), which is a prestigious all-girls boarding school. It’s all girls and boarding in the Secondary School, but there are a mix of boys and girls in the Junior School, which is a day school. What first drew me to BHA was that it’s a full continuum IB World School, offering the PYP, MYP, and DP. They are known for being innovative and they push the boundaries of what most schools think is possible. BHA was recently awarded the International School Award for “Initiative to support students as future-thinking innovators.” During the interview process, I was so impressed with the Head of School and the other administrators I spoke with about the work their students are doing. I’ll be joining the Junior School team as the Deputy Head of Junior School and PYP Coordinator, tasked with leading the integration of transdisciplinary and innovative practices in the younger grades. I can’t wait to be a part of it!

Branksome Hall Asia’s mission is “Each day, we challenge and inspire girls to love learning and to shape a better world.” This is something I can get behind! 🙂

This video highlights so many things I love about the school, including the gorgeous campus!

Now that you know more about the school, which is the reason I chose to move there, let me highlight what I’m looking forward to exploring in my new home on Jeju Island!

Aerial view of Jeju Island Source
Jeju Island is the purple island south of the mainland. Source

Jeju Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as such, it has so much natural beauty with plenty of opportunities to be outdoors. A quick Google image search of Jeju revealed these amazingly beautiful images, and I have to say, after seeing these, I cannot wait to explore all that the island has to offer. I did mention it’s the Hawaii of Korea, didn’t I?

I’ve been researching all that I can about my new home. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Jeju has over 360 volcanoes, most of them dormant.
  • The island is small, with a surface area of 1,846 sqkm and a perimeter of just 274 km, so it’ll be, by far, the smallest place I’ve ever lived abroad. Jeju is even smaller than Rhode Island, USA!
  • Not much English is spoken in Jeju, so I’ll be learning Korean. I’m really excited to learn another language, although I’m a bit intimidated about this one! So far all I know how to say is hello and thank you. I’m going to use my quarantine time to start learning Korean using an app.
  • The population of Jeju is roughly 600,000, which is a far cry from Jakarta’s population of 10 million+. Guess this means a lot less traffic to deal with!
  • I’ll need to drive a car there, which I’m actually anticipating, since I haven’t owned a car while living abroad. Of course, I’ll be getting a Hyundai!
  • Being an island, it has tons of fresh seafood. There are also lots of other food options on the island that I can’t wait to try.
  • I’ll be less than a 15-minute drive to the beach, where I can watch the dolphins jumping in the surf.
  • After living in an urban area for the last 10 years, I’m looking forward to being close to nature, where I can go for walks and hikes in my free time. I’m not a hiker, but this is something I hope to change.
  • I can get to Seoul in about an hour and for less than $50, which means I can get my big city fix whenever I want! Fun fact: The Seoul to Jeju flight path is the most regularly flown in the world, which means there’s always a flight coming or going.
  • Shanghai is only an hour and 20 minutes away and about $150. Looks like I’ll be getting a 10-year tourist visa for China!
  • The currency will be easier to deal with since 1 USD = 1,2335 KRW (Korean Won).
  • The cost of living will certainly be higher than in Indonesia, but I’ll be able to save more than 50% of my salary, which includes my travel expenses throughout the year. Hello retirement!
  • Jeju has a humid subtropical climate with 4 distinct seasons, which I am actually looking forward to experiencing again. After 3 years living in a climate that’s either hot and dry or hot and wet, with no need for a sweater ever, I’m excited that I’ll need to wear boots and a coat for part of the year! Jeju’s yearly temperatures range from 3-30C (38-86F), with mild winters and hot, humid, and rainy summers. Annual rainfall is 58-75 inches. After Jakarta, I think can handle some rain!
  • The lifestyle on the island is much more laid back than in big cities like Shanghai, Jakarta, or Bangkok. This will be a welcome change.
  • I’ll be able to breathe clean air, as there’s no air pollution on the island. What a bonus!

I know there’s so much more to learn about my new home, and I’m really looking forward to exploring it in a few short months!

So…who’s coming to visit?

The World Through My Eyes… SOL#25

IMG_0555The World Through My Eyes…

The United States is family, friends, good food, and home.

England is not sure the first time, but oh so much better the second.

Germany is meeting people in awkward places and my first taste of independence.

Fiji is adventure and pristine, so-beautiful-you-think-they’re-photoshopped beaches.

Australia is where my heart is happiest, oh and hot accents that make me weak in the knees.

China is weird smells, craziness, ‘The Bridge,’ and my second home.

Hong Kong is civilized China and home to my favorites Shaggers and Jeezy.

The Philippines is beautiful people and juicy mangoes.

Malaysia is lime juice and getting lost.

Vietnam is “beep! beep!” and night markets.

South Korea is my favorite salad, used bookstore love, and meeting my SOL friend.

Macau is long immigration lines, casinos, and Portuguese architecture.

Cambodia is explorations, biting fish, and begging children.

Thailand is tuk tuks, sketchy trains, and golden roofs.

Japan is confusion and sushi and where did my friends go?

Egypt is camel-exchange proposals, koshari, and the call to prayer.

Nepal is roaming cows, do-anything-to-help-you people, rice fields, and peace.

Italy is the kindness of strangers, gelato, and cobblestone streets.

Greece is baklava and feta, blue and white domes, and restful relaxation.

Scotland is rain and beautiful buildings and more rain.

Ireland is old castles, lush green, and Dirty Dancing.

Myanmar is long boats, temples, daily tea leaf salads, and love.

IMG_3889

The Importance of Place Value- SOL

We had received a warning prior to coming to Seoul to avoid taxis whenever possible because they were really expensive. With that in mind, we’d resolved to getting around on foot or by bus or metro. After walking all day, we were tired and cold and just wanted to get back to our hotel. Once we finished dinner, we decided that just this once we’d take a cab. Linnea rode in the front so she could give directions, and I rode in back. We arrived at our destination in about ten minutes.

“How much is it?” I asked. No response. Linnea didn’t seem to hear me, so I craned my neck to look at the meter. I saw a 37, but couldn’t see the rest. Since most of what we’ve bought was in the thousands, I assumed it was 37,000 Won. Quickly converting the amount into USD, I realized that our ten minute cab ride had cost us about 34 dollars!
Handing Linnea 20,000 Won, my share of the fare, I said, “Wow, that was SO expensive! Way more than I had expected!”
“I know. The meter started really high.”
“How much was it when we got in?” I questioned.
“I’ll tell you later,” she replied, which I took as a cue to be quiet about it since she didn’t want to talk about it while we were in the cab. After exiting the taxi, I asked again about where the meter started. “It started at 2,400,” Linnea told me.
“How the heck did it reach 37,000?!?”
“Jennifer, it was 3,700. That’s a little expensive, but not that bad.” “Really? But I paid 20,000. Where’s the change?”
“Oh no, we only got a few coins back. I only paid 2,000. I’m sorry. I just assumed you’d given me 2,000. I didn’t check it; I just handed it over. I felt like he was rushing me to get out,” Linnea said with a sympathetic look.
“Of course he was rushing us out. He just got the biggest tip ever!” “The money here all looks the same. I’m sorry.”
“Its fine. It’s not your fault,” I grumble, “I should have been more careful. I couldn’t see the zeroes and just assumed it was thousands. Next time, we’re going to take our time and make sure we give the right amount.”

In the grand scheme of things, paying an extra 20 dollars isn’t that big of a deal, but at the time, it’s a real bummer! 

One More Week!- SOL

One week from today I’ll be boarding a plane bound for Seoul! Linner and I are heading to Seoul for Spring Break, and I couldn’t be more excited! She and I traveled to Malaysia last year on Spring Break, and she’s an awesome travel buddy and friend, so I’m looking forward to the fun and craziness that is bound to happen in Korea. The above photo was taken last Spring Break, and you can bet we’ll have lots more pictures from this trip. Here’s a list of things we are planning on doing:

*Touring Mt. Namsan
*Taking photos from the Seoul Tower
*Shopping and sightseeing on Insa-dong Street
*Taking a walking tour of lots of palaces…I love the architecture! *Visiting the National Museum of Korea and the National Museum of Contemporary Art
*Visiting Bugaksan Seonggwak-gil, a fortress with a great view of Seoul
*A Korean dance show
*Tasting some Korean street food, namely Hotteok
*Shopping…I want to bring back a little piece of Korean art *Nightlife! 🙂
*Visiting the 38th Parallel
*Eating at Outback Steakhouse…I am craving a Bloomin’ Onion! And yes, I do realize that this is pretty lame to travel to Korea to eat at an American chain restaurant, but since I’m living in Shanghai where I don’t have Outback, it’s allowed.

Any other suggestions for sites/must-do’s in Seoul are very welcome! 

Special Visits in Seoul- SOL

Each time I visit a new country, I’m excited to explore my new surroundings and go on various adventures, but usually I venture out alone or with my travel companion. It’s rare to visit a new place and see some familiar faces. Last week, when I vacationed in Seoul for Spring Break, I was fortunate enough to meet up with some very special people. Two of my former students, who I taught last year at RBIS in Shanghai, recently moved back to South Korea. They heard that I would be coming to Seoul, and emailed me right away with an invitation to see them while I was in town. The second special visit was someone I’d only met online, through the SOLSC this past month. Jee Young wrote a list slice with her bucket list of things she’d like to do before she leaves Korea, and I commented that I would be visiting Seoul soon. Through a series of comments and emails, we were able to connect and eventually meet in real life!

On Wednesday, I met up with Jong Hun and Ji-Won, my students, along with Jong Hun’s brother and mom. They were so excited to be skipping school to hang out with their old teacher! After taking the hour-long bus ride out to their hometown, they took us to a Korean Folk Village, which reminded me of Mount Vernon, only the Korean version. The village was full of old Korean homes and farms, complete with traditional Korean games and performances. I had a blast learning about such a unique culture! My favorite part was the dance/percussion performance. We stopped off at a Korean restaurant for Bi Bim Bop before heading off to Everland, a local amusement park. Everland reminded me of Six Flags Astroworld, an amusement park I used to go to as a young girl.

On Thursday, Jee Young invited us to go see The Hunger Games with her and a group of her friends. I couldn’t have been more excited! For one, I was able to meet Jee Young, and for two, I was able to see the movie on the big screen! I’m a HUGE Hunger Games fan, and since I live in China where we only get about 10 foreign films a year, I was disappointed that I would have to watch it on DVD at my house for the first time. A movie like that deserves to be seen on the big

screen! I absolutely loved the movie, and I can’t wait for the next one! I really enjoyed meeting Jee Young and her friends; they were all so welcoming and kind.

On Friday, our last full day in Seoul, Jee Young showed us around the Myeong Dong area, a winding maze of shopping and street food. If I lived in Seoul, I would develop a serious shopping addiction! As we walked from store to store, I was amazed by the variety of options available; a girl could really get used to this! Jee Young introduced us to Hotteok, a pancake filled with brown sugar and cinnamon (I think), and it was really good. After our shopping adventures, she took us to the elevator that would take us to the Seoul Tower, where we would later experience phenomenal views of the city at night.

Thanks Jee Young for your hospitality and generosity! If you’re ever in Shanghai, I’ll show you around! 🙂